The origins of Notaries can be traced to ancient Egypt — a time when making records official transactions became important to humanity. The following are a few snapshots of how Notaries and notarization played a key role in the development of governments, commerce and organized society:
Ancient Egypt: 2750-2250 B.C.
Ancient Egyptian “sesh,” or “scribes,” were established in the Old Kingdom and were the earliest known chroniclers of official communications in recorded history. Scribes made up an entire level of the ancient Egyptian bureaucracy. Personal letters, official proclamations, tax records, and other documents all went through their hands. The recording of events was so highly valued that Pharaoh Tutankhamen even included writing equipment in his tomb for the afterlife.
Roman Empire: 535
The true ancestors of Notaries were born in the Roman Empire. Many regard history’s first Notary to be a Roman slave named Tiro, who developed a shorthand system which he called notae for taking down the speeches of the famed orator Cicero. Other witnessing stenographers came to be known as notarii and scribae. As literacy was not widespread, the Notary, or “Notarius” as they were called, served to prepare contracts, wills, and other important documents for a fee. As the Roman Empire grew and literacy increased, demand for the Notary also increased.
Order of the Knights Templar: 1099-1307
The Knights Templar were a monastic military order formed at the end of the First Crusade with the mandate of protecting Christian pilgrims on route to the Holy Land. From humble beginnings, within two centuries they had become powerful enough to defy all but the Papal throne, and created the modern system of banking, mortgages and loans. The Clergy of the Order were highly educated and became the critically important Notaries for all Templar business, official documents, orders and proclamations.
Notaries Public in England: 13th and 14th Centuries
Notaries were not introduced into England until later in the 13th and 14th centuries as English common law developed separately from most of the influences of Roman law. Notaries were often appointed by the Papal Legate or the Archbishop of Canterbury, and in those early days many were members of the clergy. Over the course of time members of the clergy ceased to involve themselves in secular business, thus laymen in towns and trading centers began to assume the official character and functions of a modern Notary.
Notaries and the Conquests of Columbus: 15th Century
Notaries accompanied Columbus on all of his voyages to ensure to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that all discovered treasures were accounted for. They witnessed noteworthy acts, like when Columbus first beheld the New World in 1492 by landing on San Salvador Island in the Bahamas.
Notaries in Early America: 1600-1800
In Colonial America, only persons of high moral character were appointed as public Notaries to certify and keep documents safe. Their contributions to colonial life are largely seen as the reason American business became a huge success. For example, in colonial times Notaries were invaluable to trans-Atlantic commerce, as parties on both sides depended on them to be honest third parties in reporting damage or loss to a ship’s cargo. While Notaries were held in very high regard during this time, life for Notaries in early America was anything but easy. Some were even killed for their involvement in authenticating official documents and recordkeeping as conflicting factions fought for control of the New World.
John Coolidge and President Calvin Coolidge:
John Coolidge was born in 1845 and was 78 years old when he came to fame as a Notary Public in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. His son was Calvin Coolidge, was elected Vice President under Warren G. Harding in 1921. When Harding died in 1923, Coolidge was sworn in as the 30th President of the United States by his father – the only president to ever be sworn in by a Notary.